As their plane took off from the US nine US bloggers, on their first visit to Egypt, were worried about their safety.
International media outlets regularly paint a picture of Egypt as an unsafe country.
Yet the bloggers departed Egypt eight days later with a totally different mindset.
“I never guessed Egypt was so safe, or Egyptians so welcoming and hospitable. Eight days completely changed the image I had of the country. Now I know that Egypt is totally wrongly presented in the news,” Ovec Reyes, one of the bloggers, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Reyes and eight other bloggers were invited to Egypt by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt’s (AmCham) Travel and Tourism Committee and the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism.
From 11 November the nine bloggers roamed different cities and historic sites, in what Reyes said was a “heart-captivating trip”.
The visit was an attempt to promote tourism to Egypt by providing social media bloggers with a chance to visit historic sites such as the Karnak Temple in Luxor, Red Sea resorts like El Gouna, and roam Cairo’s historic streets.
The bloggers also visited the Giza Plateau and had a private tour of the Grand Egyptian Museum.
For Reyes, Cairo was the place where he was “most fascinated and had my mind blown away”.
“No country in the world has such beautiful places for worshiping three religions, all next to each other, like Old Cairo,” he said.
“And it is only in a city like Cairo that you find organised chaos like Khan Al-Khalili offers.”
“Egypt is more than just the Pyramids. I don’t think people know about all the good things Egypt offers tourists, they are not showcased in the global media.”
Karim Al-Manabawi, co-chair of AmCham’s Travel and Tourism Committee, says the bloggers’ itinerary focused on highlighting little known aspects of Egypt as a tourist destination.
“We wanted to show our visitors that Egypt is a place where they can find everything they want,” said Al-Manabawi. They can chill on the beach and in less than an hour be camping in pristine desert wilderness, surrounded by mountains, and eating dinner over a fire with Bedouins.
The bloggers also enjoyed free time in which they were able to roam unaccompanied.
“We wanted them to see what Egypt is really like for tourists, to experience local transport, shopping and everyday life. None of them complained about being harassed,” said Al-Manabawi.
“Taking photographs, experiencing new food and exploring history; having all of these things in one place makes Egypt the perfect destination for people who want to explore new aspects in life,” says Reyes.
He identified the local food as one of the highlights of the trip.
“Even the simplest thing like the balady bread is unbelievable. You never read about any of this in media outlets,” he said.
The bloggers included professional landscape and architectural photographers, and their posts have opened a window for their followers to see a new side to Egypt which will hopefully encourage them to visit.
“We chose bloggers with many followers since the aim was to enable as many people as possible to explore Egypt through the photographs of these influencers,” said Al-Manabawi.
After posting images on his Instagram account Reyes says he was showered with questions about Egypt.
“After posting just two pictures and a few stories on Instagram I received messages from amazed people saying they found the scenes amazing and asking if the city was safe enough.”
* A version of this article appears in print in the 22 November, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Batting for Egypt